Texas Motor Speedway - Earnhardt Jr spotlight

EARNHARDT JR. TO MAKE FIRST NATIONWIDE SERIES START AT TMS SINCE 1999 IN NEXT WEEK'S O'REILLY 300 * Earnhardt Jr.'s Start Also Will Mark 10-Year Anniversary Of His First Career Nationwide Series Win That Came At Texas Motor Speedway FORT...

EARNHARDT JR. TO MAKE FIRST NATIONWIDE SERIES START AT TMS SINCE 1999 IN NEXT WEEK'S O'REILLY 300

* Earnhardt Jr.'s Start Also Will Mark 10-Year Anniversary Of His First Career Nationwide Series Win That Came At Texas Motor Speedway

FORT WORTH, Texas (March 27, 2008) Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s entry in next week's O'Reilly 300 will mark his first appearance in a Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway since he captured the 1999 series championship.

Earnhardt Jr. will be driving the No.5 Go Daddy Chevrolet for Junior Motorsports in the O'Reilly 300, which will feature more than a dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup stars pulling double duty for the Samsung 500 race weekend on Saturday, April 5.

Earnhardt Jr. has made two Nationwide Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway, including one that resulted in a career milestone, and both came during his run to consecutive championships in that series. En route to his title in 1998, Earnhardt Jr. captured his first career Nationwide Series victory at TMS and followed with a 10th-place finish at "The Great American Speedway!" during his 1999 championship run.

"It's been a while since I've raced at Texas in the Nationwide Series, so I'm looking forward to getting back there," said Earnhardt Jr., whose first career Sprint Cup Series win in 2000 also came at TMS. "It's hard to believe that first win came 10 years ago time goes by pretty quick. Texas is a special track to me and it would mean a lot to win there next weekend and it would be cool to win in both series. We're also so close to winning on the Cup side, so it would be nice to close the deal at Texas."

The O'Reilly 300 will nearly mark the 10-year anniversary of Earnhardt Jr.'s first Nationwide Series victory to the day. He won the then-Coca-Cola 300 on April 4, 1998 by 0.178 of a second over Elliott Sadler. It currently is the second-closest Nationwide Series finish in Texas Motor Speedway history, and remains a great memory for Earnhardt Jr.

"I remember we unloaded really good and were probably one of three or four cars that were legitimate contenders, but I ran into the back of someone halfway through the race and it caused a tire rub," he recalled. "We had to pit, and I figured that killed any chance we had to win. Joe Nemechek was really strong that day, as he was every weekend back then. But we drove it back up through the field, took tires with about nine laps to go, and was able to get by Joe coming off of Turn 4. My wheels were on the grass, too. It was hard to pass him, but we were able to get the win. It was a lot of fun. That was my first year in the AC Delco car. I was still living in a double-wide trailer at the time with my buddy, just trying to pay the bills on time and keep the lights on."

Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage is excited about the "Junior Nation" getting the opportunity to see their NASCAR superstar on both Saturday and Sunday of a TMS race week in a long time.

"The last three O'Reilly 300 races have been among the five closest in Nationwide history at TMS and adding Junior to the mix makes this the `can't miss' Nationwide event for the entire season," Gossage said. "I'm sure the Junior Nation is pumped up to see their hero race twice for them in Texas for the first time in nine years."

Tickets still are available for the O'Reilly 300 by calling (817) 215-8500 or visit www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

-credit: tms

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr.